Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Is There A Limit To The Medical Imperative To End Suffering And Disease? -- By: Mark Foreman
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Embryonic Stem Cell Research: Is There A Limit To The Medical Imperative To End Suffering And Disease?
In March of 2009, President Obama fulfilled one of his campaign promises and lifted the ban on federal funding for new stem cell lines derived from the destruction of embryos that was imposed by former President Bush in 2001. In doing so he said, “Scientists believe these tiny cells may have the potential to help us understand, and possibly cure, some of our most devastating diseases and conditions. . . I believe we are called to care for each other and work to ease human suffering. I believe we have been given the capacity and will to pursue this research – and the humanity and conscience to do so responsibly.”1
The president’s assessment of embryonic stem cell research (hereafter referred to as ESCR) is not new. In the summer of 2004 Ron Reagan, son of the late President, made similar comments before the
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Democratic National Convention. There he described a thirteen year old child with diabetes forced to wear an insulin pump and to undergo endless blood drawings. He lamented how she has to look forward to the possibility of future blindness, amputation or diabetic coma and spoke of the wonderful potential of ESCR to cure diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s, MS, and others. He asserted that we have a moral obligation to cure these diseases if we can and that we should not let the religious beliefs of some forestall the health and well being of the many. At one point he said,
Yes, these cells could theoretically have the potential, under very different circumstances, to develop into human beings—that potential is where their magic lies. But they are not, in and of themselves, human beings. They have no fingers and toes, no brain or spinal cord. They have no thoughts, no fears. They feel no pain. Surely we can distinguish between these undifferentiated cells multiplying in a tissue culture and a living, breathing person—a parent, a spouse, a child.2
Less than a year before Reagan’s speech, an article appeared in the August 2003 issue of Readers Digest, which has a circulation of about twelve million. The article was written by Michael Kinsley, one of the hosts of the popular show “Crossfire.” The article was titled “Cure me if you Can.” Kinsley related his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder caused by the loss of a specific group of nerves that release dopamine into the system. Symptoms of Parkinson’s involve tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity, loss of bala...
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